Author: Sarah Tubbs
Location: Newcastle, Australia
While I have been here in Australia, I have realized how eco-friendly and conscious a lot of people and places are. Literally no one uses plastic straws or packaging, the grocery stores push the use of reusable bags, there are talks and conferences every week regarding climate change, and there are many designated places for national and state conservation areas. Of these places, one of them is the Blue Mountains National Park and Conservation Area and UNESN (the international exchange group on the University of Newcastle’s campus) has a trip they put on for people to go there!
An hour outside of Sydney, you will find the Blue Mountains National Park, a beautiful place with many stories and folktales that are tied to the breathtaking landscapes you hike through when there. UNESN puts on a weekend trip that sells out fairly quickly to the Blue Mountains every semester at the University. Paying for this trip gets you two nights in a backpacker hostel in Katoomba (the small and cute city bordering the National Park), two breakfast meals, and two dinner meals. When you get there you have the opportunity to meet new people, eat some pretty good food, hike all around the National Park, and get to see some of the amazing landscapes of New South Wales. I recommend whoever does choose this study abroad program or finds themselves in this area of Australia in their lives, this is one place you don’t want to miss.
The best part about this weekend were the endless hikes and views we got to see on Saturday and Sunday. We all woke up early both days and split up to hike the different trails found throughout the National Park. My friends Linneya, Krista, and I went and walked the Charles Darwin hike into the National Park. One fascinating thing we discovered about this trail is that it was named after Charles Darwin due to him visiting this area in Australia once in 1836. This is a very easy hike that has no steep inclines or challenging paths that is a great time for anyone! This trail then led to the breathtaking cliffs, overhangs, and waterfalls on the Wentworth Falls trail that is found deeper in the park grounds. The Wentworth Falls trail is more challenging of a hike. With steep stairs, ladder climbs, tricky footpaths, and more, this trail may be physically demanding but is absolutely beautiful. This was one of the highlights of the entire weekend. My friends and I decided to walk the entire thing and got to see some pretty epic landscape views of the National Park. We stopped throughout the trail to either catch our breaths, eat a little snack, or take pictures of the beauty that was surrounding us. As we were hiking, one of the most spectacular things happened. We randomly stopped and looked at the waterfall when all of a sudden a rainbow appeared right before our eyes glowing in the waters flow! It was a rare moment that we randomly were able to witness and remember from this trip together.
Another hike we took on Sunday was to the famous Three Sisters viewpoint in the National Park. This was an adventure I will really never forget. For the month of September in Australia, it is still considered winter time since the seasons are opposite that of the US. So when we did go to the Blue Mountains it was around 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit the entire weekend. This didn’t ever affect us when we were hiking on Saturday since we had trees to block out most of the wind. But when hiking to the Three Sisters lookout, there were no barriers to the cold wind that was hitting all of us. Google Maps made us believe it would be a short 15 minute walk to the lookout, so we were all down for it. But this walk ended up being around 30 minutes of us fast walking to get to the lookout where the sun was setting. We were all freezing cold and barely able to move our fingers, but the view was amazing. Not one of us didn’t have a smile on our faces as we watched the sun set over this breathtaking scenery. Overall, this weekend was truly magical as seeing these amazing sights really puts into perspective what is truly important in the hectic world we live in. Simply breathing and looking at the natural beauty of the world can put you into your place found on this planet that sustains us, and show you that we should try to return the favour.